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The Women with Silver Wings Summary and Reviews

The Women with Silver Wings

The Inspiring True Story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II

by Katherine Sharp Landdeck

The Women with Silver Wings by Katherine Sharp Landdeck X
The Women with Silver Wings by Katherine Sharp Landdeck
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Book Summary

The thrilling true story of the daring female aviators who helped the United States win World War II--only to be forgotten by the country they served.

When Japanese planes executed a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Cornelia Fort was already in the air. At twenty-two, Cornelia had escaped Nashville's debutante scene for a fresh start as a flight instructor in Hawaii. She and her student were in the middle of their lesson when the bombs began to fall, and they barely made it back to ground that morning. Still, when the U.S. Army Air Forces put out a call for women pilots to aid the war effort, Cornelia was one of the first to respond. She became one of just over 1,100 women from across the nation to make it through the Army's rigorous selection process and earn her silver wings.

In The Women with Silver Wings, historian Katherine Sharp Landdeck introduces us to these young women as they meet even-tempered, methodical Nancy Love and demanding visionary Jacqueline Cochran, the trailblazing pilots who first envisioned sending American women into the air, and whose rivalry would define the Women Airforce Service Pilots. For women like Cornelia, it was a chance to serve their country--and to prove that women aviators were just as skilled and able as men.

While not authorized to serve in combat, the WASP helped train male pilots for service abroad and ferried bombers and pursuits across the country. Thirty-eight of them would not survive the war. But even taking into account these tragic losses, Love and Cochran's social experiment seemed to be a resounding success--until, with the tides of war turning and fewer male pilots needed in Europe, Congress clipped the women's wings. The program was disbanded, the women sent home. But the bonds they'd forged never failed, and over the next few decades, they came together to fight for recognition as the military veterans they were--and for their place in history.

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Reviews

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Reader Reviews

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Diane T. (Slingerlands, NY)

Silver Wings on Women's Lapels
Katherine Sharp Landdeck's debut book, The Women With Silver Wings", delves into the mostly unknown world of women pilots and their immense contributions, ferrying air crafts from manufacturers to drop off airports, during WW II. We are all familiar with "Rosie the Riveter". We have seen the famous poster of a woman flexing her muscle - Rosie! We all know that when our men were called to serve our country, women, most homemakers with children, answered the call. They fulfilled those duties in all industries that were left without workers in addition to the war-time effort of building the machinery needed.

But how many of us knew about the WASP - Women Airforce Service Pilots - and what they went through not only to serve but to be duly recognized for their patriotism until now. How fortunate for us and for Ms. Landdeck, that she was actually able to interview these women of various backgrounds. And through these interviews we learn of their personal difficulties and sacrifice, finally setting the record straight with grit and persistence -- just like a woman!!! That it took from 1944 to 1977, and even then not to totally to make WASP eligible for all veteran benefits and programs, is a travesty. In 2009, these women were finally recognized by the United States with the highest award, the Congressional Gold Medal. At that ceremony, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said in her speech, "Women Airforce Service Pilots, we are your daughters; you taught us how to fly" Amen to that!!!!!

Roberta W. (Los Ranchos, NM)

You Taught Us How to Fly
When the United States entered World War II it had been only twenty years since American women were allowed to vote. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that in 1942 the male power structure, especially that of the Army Air Force, believed that women could not fly airplanes.

That was nonsense, of course, as this oral history of the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) aptly demonstrates. It is a well written story of the women who ferried practically every kind of airplane the United States built during the the war all across the country. They were pioneers in the air, but also pioneers in the women's movement and the struggle for equal pay and equal rights which continues.

I wish the book had more historical context. I would have liked to read not only about the women who flew these planes, but also the women who built them, and how women generally fared during the war. It would have been good also to have some information about what happened to women in the military between the sad, unnecessary disbandment of the WASP and U.S. Air Force Major Nicole Malachowski, the first female USAF Thunderbird pilot who addressed these WWII pilots at their last reunion. Hopefully, Dr. Sharp Landdeck will write that book too.

This reviewer assumes the final edition of the book will have an index which the review copy lacked. It needs one.

Women in the United States had come a long way by the time we reach the most moving part of the book. In June 2009 the preeminent American politician of the early 21st Century, the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America, Nancy Pelosi, said to them, "We are all your daughters; you taught us how to fly."

Deborah H. (West Chicago, IL)

Women take flight.
I am so appreciative that The Women With Silver Wings has come to be. This true account of female pilots and the role they played as Women Airforce Service Pilots in World War II gives us an in-depth look at these truly courageous women.
It was amazing to me how brave and dedicated these women were and how quickly our nation forgot them when there services were no longer in high demand.
Truly a great read for book clubs, for those that enjoy highly readable World War II history, and anyone looking to be inspired by the courage of those that have come before us. I would love to see this book made into a version for 9-12 year old girls. What an inspiration!

Ginny H. (Troutdale, OR)

The Woman with Silver Wings
I love all books set during WWII and this was especially enticing because it is about women pilots during and after Pearl Harbor. I was really inspired by the camaraderie and bravery of each of these heroes. Wonderful writing, wonderful story.

Betty T. (Warner Robins, GA)

Courageous Young Women
This is a superbly researched and written book about the brave young women who were eager to serve their country during World War II by ferrying new aircraft from the factories to the military pick-up point. Having served in the USAF in the mid-70s I could relate to some of the skepticism they encountered not only from the military men but from society in general. As all able-bodied males were off fighting in the war, there was a serious shortage of pilots. These gutsy women rushed in to fill the void flying 77 different types of aircraft. Even though most of the women pilots were better qualified than the male pilots they were not recognized for their service to their country and designated as veterans until November 1977.

The book consists of numerous vignettes of the remarkable female pilots who became known as WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots). The chapters are short and easy to read.

Thank you to BookBrowse and Crown Publishing for the advance copy. I am providing an unbiased review.

Vivian H. (Winchester, VA)

Emotional & Inspiring
From the first paragraphs I was drawn into this beautiful tribute to the brave, dedicated, inspiring aviatrix that remained unsung heroines for decades, denied the recognition, military status and pensions they had earned because of their sex. The WASP, a select group of 1102 women who earned their silver wings having to achieve far more than male pilots, flew more than 60 Million miles, in 77 different types of aircraft, served as test pilots, trainers, ferried planes, and performed every task other than combat missions that men performed. I was nearly brought to tears on several occasions reading how Congress, the Army, the commercial airlines and the American public marginalized them because they were women. The WASP was summarily disbanded when male pilots began returning stateside. It wasn't until Senator Barry Goldwater promised to advocate for the WASP did they finally achieve military status ....the end of 1977...more than 30 years after they were sent home to return to lives as wives and mothers. It wasn't until the 1970s that an American airline would hire a woman pilot!
These amazing women helped lay the cornerstones of a movement that enabled women of today to enjoy near parity with men in the workplace. Just WOW!

...18 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Katherine Sharp Landdeck

Katherine Sharp Landdeck is an associate professor of history at Texas Woman's University, the home of the WASP archives. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, where she earned her PhD, Landdeck has received numerous awards for her work on the WASP and has appeared as an expert on NPR's Morning Edition, PBS, and the History Channel. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and HuffPost, as well as in numerous academic and aviation publications. Landdeck is a licensed pilot who flies whenever she can.

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